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Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CHIEF (Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-05-01 do 2021-10-31

CHIEF is an international research project led by Aston University (UK). The project involved academic, civil society and policy-maker partners across nine countries (Croatia, Georgia, Germany, India, Latvia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, UK).

The twinned ideas of respect towards minorities’ rights and cultural diversity are facing challenges across Europe. These include the radicalisation, ethnonationalism and separatism. These and other phenomena raise questions about the idea of Europeanness as a culture of dialogue and mutual respect. CHIEF aims to examine the processes and environments that influence young people’s cultural literacy and cultural identity. Its purpose is to explore ways of changing how cultural literacy is shaped and encouraged.

The project has the following overall objectives:
1. To achieve a better underlying conceptual understanding of young people’s cultural literacy as a process that takes place in diverse educational environments.
2. To critically evaluate the meanings of ‘European culture’ and ‘European cultural heritage’ as a central reference point for policies aiming to develop more effective inter-cultural dialogue in Europe.
3. To bring a truly global and inter-cultural perspective to exploring the meanings of ‘European culture’ by expanding the regional focus of the investigation to non-EU countries.
4. To investigate actual practices and attitudes of young people articulated in the course of their inter-cultural communication.
5. To map the existing pedagogical approaches to enhancing young people’s cultural literacy in Europe (and beyond).
6. To evaluate the effectiveness of young people’s learning practices in relation to the pedagogy of cultural literacy.
7. To assess civil society as a non-formal educational environment for developing young people’s cultural knowledge, stimulating their cultural participation and supporting inter-cultural dialogue.
8. To examine young people’s cultural literacy as part of a process evolving in the course of intergenerational transmissions of cultural practices and values.
9. To examine the political and practical limitations of elitist and historically static understandings of European cultural heritage by unpacking its underlying politics of cultural selectivity.
10. To facilitate knowledge exchange between various stakeholders in order to enhance the development of effective strategies that raise cultural literacy and challenge xenophobic stereotypes among young people.

All planned empirical research has been successfully completed and all research tasks and objectives have been achieved. The international, context-driven and mix-method investigation enabled us to produce a holistic and multidimensional perspective on issues and challenges faced by young people in Europe and beyond in the course of their cultural socialisation and in accessing diverse forms of cultural participation and environments for cross-cultural interactions.
CHIEF’s findings demonstrate:
1. Culture and diversity are often understood in ethnonationalist terms, or by a perceived tension between ethnonationalism and multiculturalism. Definitions of culture are often narrow and one-dimensional and are limited to a dominant Eurocentric perspective. While governments express commitments to cultural and social tolerance through cultural education, they fail to recognise the complex relationship between national identity and inclusion and conflate inclusion with the integration of minorities into prevailing cultural norms. National narratives often do not engage critically with difficult pasts, which limits the recognition and participation of those whose histories are excluded and does not question exclusionary views. The preservation of local, regional and diasporic cultural traditions remains important for young Europeans. However, this diversity of traditions is not always reflected in cultural institutions.
2. There is disconnection between official discourses on heritage and the needs of young people, with significant discrepancies between cultural activities available to young people and what interests and matters to them. This disconnect underpins a low level of cultural engagement by many young people, particularly in relation to ‘high culture’, and means that young people from diverse backgrounds often lack opportunities to practice, celebrate and share their culture. Young people’s needs are often best met by grassroots cultural organisations, which are more responsive to their diverse cultures and interests and deliver less formal and structured activities. However, public funding is often targeted at large institutions that represent ‘high culture’, leaving these semi-formal and informal organisations underfunded.
3. Racial, religious, gender- and disability-based inequalities hinder participation in cultural activities and access to cultural resources. Family and socio-economic status also significantly limit young people’s access to cultural opportunities. Culture is seen as an expense rather than an investment, leaving cultural activities undervalued and under-resourced, and young people without opportunities and choices.
4. There is a lack of promotion of cultural diversity in school settings, with school curricula not reflecting the lived cultural experiences of pupils’ families and local communities. There is also a lack of provision of diverse cultural activities both in school and through extracurricular visits to cultural heritage sites. This is particularly acute in rural areas, and, in some contexts, opportunities may be unequally dispersed across multiple educational pathways. This lack of provision is further problematised in the least diverse localities where opportunities for inter-cultural contact in school are also limited.
CHIEF's academic dissemination resulted in presentation of research papers at several major international conferences and research workshops, publication of an edited volume, individual articles and a special issue.
The project's results had been also exploited by building up a future research collaboration with different research institutions (including the ones external to CHIEF) and non-academic partners.
The research findings helped to maximise project’s societal and policy impact. CHIEF has explored and helped to develop, thorough its PAR components, good practices in intercultural dialogue that built on respect and recognition of diverse cultural heritages. Through implementation of intervention miniprojects, the project gave voice to young people and minority communities, allowing them to progress in achieving a culturally inclusive society. These interventions, policy briefings, social media outlets, podcasts and documentaries constituted the project’s social and policy impact beyond the academic and research community. Young people and their communities benefited from a media training, whereas policymakers, practitioners and community activists (including young people) had an opportunity to work together to develop cultural interventions and policy recommendations. The practitioner and beneficiary toolkits are tangible outcomes which are openly accessible to the public. CHIEF’s impact and dissemination strategy has been effective in reaching diverse audiences and communities through its research podcast series, three documentary films; publications in the national and international press; and appearances in national radio programmes.
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